Monday, March 2, 2009
winter caprese salad
I forgot to post the recipe for the salad I made at the interminable risotto dinner. Unlike the main course, this salad is super fast to throw together. You can do all the prep work as the tomatoes roast in the oven.
Caprese salad is one of my favorite things to eat, but in the winter, nice tomatoes and super-fresh basil are hard to come by. Always looking for an excuse to consume fresh mozzarella, I don't let this stop me. I just make the winterized version of the salad from Mario Batali's cookbook Molto Mario.
The salad is comprised of the usual suspects: mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, but the ingredients are used in a slightly different way. The tomatoes get roasted, which is a good way to bring out their sweetness even when they're sort of anemic-looking. I amp up the flavor even more by using cherry or grape tomatoes, which are pretty flavorful year-round. Basil can also be found in grocery stores any time of year, but it's hard to beat the fragrant stuff you get in the summer. However, whizzing it up in a blender to make pesto heightens the flavor and helps make the most of what you've got. It's not a bad way to dine until warmer days arrive again.
Winter caprese salad
I made a few tweaks to this dish, mainly roasting my tomatoes differently. Mario recommends cooking them low and slow, two hours at 200 degrees. Which I'm sure yields sweet and tender results, but I don't have the time. My way, this dish is done in about 30 minutes. And it's still really, really delicious.
(Serves 4 people)
For the salad:
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and left whole (I used multicolored heirloom cherry tomatoes because they looked pretty and were on sale, but whatever you can find is fine)
salt and pepper
1 lb. fresh mozzarella or burrata (mozz's milky cousin)
For the pesto:
3 handfuls of basil leaves (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup pine nuts, plus 1/4 cup extra, toasted
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your cherry tomatoes in a large cookie sheet or baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss until the tomatoes are evenly coated. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are burst and blistered, with a few dark spots. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.
To make the pesto: in a food processor, combine the garlic, pine nuts, and basil. Pulse until slightly pureed. Pour in the olive oil gradually, pulsing with each addition until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, parmesan, and salt. Taste as you go, making sure it's balanced. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator.
Slice your mozzarella or burrata--you can do long slices, or 1-inch size pieces. Arrange the cheese on your salad plates. Spoon the cooled tomatoes over the cheese, evenly distributing them between each plate. Add the pesto over the tomatoes and cheese. Top with a sprinkle of roasted pine nuts and some freshly-ground black pepper.